Worldly Wit

Columbia Falls eighth grader Noah Golan is conquering the world one geography question at a time

By Dillon Tabish
Noah Golan, an eighth-grader at Columbia Falls Junior High School, is a three-time geography bee champion. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Which Canadian province produces more than half of the country’s manufactured goods?

To visit the ruins of Persepolis, an ancient ceremonial capital of Persia, you would have to travel to what present-day country?

The North Atlantic current brings warm waters from the tropics to the west coast of which continent?

Don’t know the answers? Just ask Noah Golan.

The 13-year-old eighth grader at Columbia Falls Junior High School is a walking atlas with blonde wavy hair and worldly wit, a go-to source for classmates or teachers seeking answers to earth’s arrangement.

“Noah is a student who has a genuine interest in the history of the world and the cultures who have occupied the globe. He truly wants to firmly grasp the cultural composition of each nation as well as what that nation’s track record has been on a global scale,” Jeff Peck, a social studies teacher at Columbia Falls Junior High School, said. “He asks questions in class that provoke unique thoughts and perspectives about the relationships between countries due to his elevated understanding of their past history. He also will contribute comments that help other students rationalize why certain regions of the world inherently have ideological differences and conflict.”

Golan’s educational acumen was recently on full display as he won his school’s geography bee for the third year in a row among nearly 40 students. Since he was a sixth grader, Golan has missed only two questions out of nearly 50 in the annual contest.

Now he is preparing to compete in the state contest, which will feature 100 geography bee winners from across Montana in early April. The winner of that competition will advance to the 28th annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., where top students will vie for a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society including a subscription to National Geographic magazine, and a National Geographic Expeditions trip to a national park in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

For Golan, the opportunity to visit the nation’s capital is motivation enough.

“I could spend hours, days, months there,” he said.

The son of Alon and Jen, Noah grew up in the local outdoors, exploring the peaks of Glacier National Park and developing a passion for exploration and travel. At 5, he was poring over atlases in the car for hours at a time as his dad drove back and forth from San Francisco for family trips. At 7, he was trekking in Nepal near Mt. Everest. At 8, he summited Great Northern Mountain.

“It’s exciting to see new places and new sceneries,” Golan said. “I’ve always been drawn to places that are really remote and hard to get to.”

To prepare for the upcoming state competition, Golan is studying at least three days a week. That includes reading magazines that he has long had subscriptions to, such as National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian and Time. When he’s done reading those, he gets online and reads Wikipedia entries or talks about the world with his family.

“I don’t have a set format for studying,” he said. “I just go as I want to and have as much fun as possible.”

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